Chilterns bearing fruit again
Tmay be hard to believe it now, but once upon a time the Chilterns was famous for its cherry and prune orchards. The rolling hills were covered in thousands of acres in the early 20th century.
South Bucks in particular was known for its cherries. Seer Green was a hub for traders who took their carts full off to London to sell, while people would flock to Prestwood and Holmer Green for fruit picking season.
Local varieties sprung up like the Aylesbury Prune or the Arthur Turner Apple.
Local people would come out in full force in peak time – June and July – as did professional pickers from far flung counties.
But in the 20th century the Chilterns could no longer compete with other areas, like Kent and Herefordshire and fruit imported from the continent.
The orchards began to decline and as a cherry tree’s typical age is 120 years, they began to die, leaving behind just a shadow of the Bucks’ fruit former glory.
However, this could all be about to change.
Many villages and towns have recently planted their own community orchards, providing a variety of fruit.
In 2013, Chesham created its own community orchard next to Lowndes Park, with apple, pear, cherry and plum trees, including Aylesbury Prune to keep the Bucks variety alive.
Chalfont St Peter has also planted mini orchards, with people able to pick fruit for free. There are also plans to plant nut trees and to get people to plant fruit in their own gardens.
The Chiltern Open Air Museum, in Chalfont St Giles, also got in on the act, planting a new cherry orchard using local fruit varieties, including Frogmore Early Dangler and Doesn’t Split.
There are plans to get more people involved and even for people to start planting fruit trees in their own gardens.